I haven’t written for a while because a lot has happened – Christmas, for one thing, and the start of my university term. What is slightly ironic is that I was planning to write a post about how I’d actually had a happy Christmas for the first time in several years, due not to external factors but the fact that my depression seems to be getting better, but before I got round to doing so my Granddad died. This happened completely unexpectedly on new year’s eve and it was the first time anyone I was close to had died. He was 93 and not worried about death, and I believe he’s with God now and having more fun than he has for a while, but that doesn’t make it hurt less. What’s even more ironic is that I think his death has actually had a positive effect on my depression.
It turns out that when someone you love dies, especially when you don’t really get a chance to say goodbye, the sadness you feel is of a completely different type to any other kind of sadness. Actors in films, on which my view of death had been based until this, completely fail to convey that and so it came as something of a shock. In spite of that, grief is still a far softer and more wholesome kind of sadness than the crushing loneliness and emptiness that comes from being depressed. Depression makes you focus on yourself; bereavement takes the focus to others, living and dead, memories of times past and ways of helping everyone to cope with now. To put it frankly, although being inward-focused isn’t something I can help, losing Granddad made me snap out of it. My exams last summer were similarly all-consuming and had the same effect, but somewhere between then and the end of last year I’d slid back down the slippery slope into emptiness.
This time though, I’m armed; most fundamentally, I know that there is a slope. I know too a little about how I will start behaving if I end up back on it, and although they’re still pretty rudimentary I have some tools to help stop the slide and maybe even reverse it. The most unexpectedly useful of these has been compassion towards myself – if I do get depressed, instead of swearing at myself for being pathetic I am learning to tell myself that it’s okay, I am allowed to feel like that sometimes and it isn’t a weakness. My cynicism renders it incredibly difficult to do this sincerely and not sarcastically, but I’m getting there.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, darkness is when the stars shine brightest.